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Guns N’ Roses changed hearts worth waiting for

Dylan Amirio

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, November 8, 2018  /  01:05 pm
Guns N’ Roses changed hearts worth waiting for

Welcome to the jungle: Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose (left) and guitarist Slash perform during a concert in Sweden in 2017. (AFP/TT News Agency/Vilhelm Stokstad)

Jakarta is counting the mere hours left before being able to witness the performance of one of the most popular and iconic rock bands in history, Guns N’ Roses, at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Thursday evening.

However, this won’t be the “Axl Rose Show” that the world was treated to for the past 20 years or so. No, in a surprising turn of events, the original G N’ R has reunited. Well, three-fifths of it did: bassist Duff McKagan and guitarist Slash are sharing the stage with vocalist Axl Rose for the first time in decades.

After stops around the world, the reunited lineup is in the midst of their Asian leg, with Jakarta as one of the lucky places to welcome the jungle.

The reunion, which began in 2016, was something that the world never really thought would happen, considering the intense animosity that Axl Rose showed to his former ex-band members.

Hence, the name of the band’s reunion tour is “Not In This Lifetime”. The name shows that the band is aware enough of its own tumultuous history to make light of it.

Even though the tour is being touted as an “original member reunion”, two of those originals are conspicuously absent.  

Original rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler chose to sit out the lineup. Adler joined the band on drums during several shows of the reunion tour in 2016.

As a band, Guns N’ Roses has blazed a permanent trail on the face of music. Its debut 1987 album Appetite for Destruction is widely regarded as one of the best rock albums of the 20th century. Several songs from the album have become all but iconic, from the instantly noticeable guitar lick of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to the hedonistic party vibe of “Welcome to the Jungle” and the tough-guy cockiness of “It’s So Easy”.

Axl Rose had a voice that was both sweet, tough and fierce, while Slash’s macho leads blended well with Izzy Stradlin’s chugging riffs. Duff McKagan’s basslines found a life of their own even when they were in danger of being drowned out by the guitars. And Steven Adler? His pounding of the drums stuck to your ears.

The band followed the massive Appetite with a more subdued record in 1988 with G N’ R Lies! The album cover, which depicts a tabloid newspaper with eye-grabbing headlines, is the band’s way of satirizing tabloid gossip culture, of which they were to unfortunately be subjects of during the following years. Axl Rose’s famous tantrums, poisonous words for his band mates and incredible tardiness at shows usually took the main tabloid spotlight.

The band’s double album Use Your Illusion I & II, which came out in 1991, was the last G N’ R record that featured Steven Adler. Showcasing their tenderness, the single chosen to lead the double album was the orchestral and piano-laden “November Rain”.

By the end of this album’s tour, Stradlin had quit the band and was replaced by Gilby Clarke, who would only record one release with the band: 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident?.

Slash left the band in 1996 while McKagan left in 1997, leaving Rose the sole member of the band for almost two decades.

Rose pushed forward after 1997, taking absolute control of the band, reigning over a revolving door of musicians, from ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, guitarists Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Paul Tobias and Robin Finck, keyboardist Dizzy Reed and drummer Josh Freese.

It was the “Axl Rose Show” that kick-started the process that led to the infamous album Chinese Democracy in 2008. Having been in the works as early as 1994, the album became a physical animation and display of Rose’s perfectionism and tardiness.

Chinese Democracy, however, gave Rose the fresh injection of new material needed for his live shows. Axl Rose’s band even made it to Jakarta in 2012. The show at the now-defunct Mata Elang International Stadium in North Jakarta on Dec. 15 was initially cancelled because of venue problems, but was held the next day.

With McKagan and Slash at their original places this time around, the band’s second visit to Jakarta in this wet November would undoubtedly become one for the books, especially if it rains.